AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Make Your Assessments 'Bloom'

You can take advantage of a system called Bloom's Taxonomy to create classroom assessments that develop students' thinking skills.

In 1956, a group of educational psychologists headed by Benjamin Bloom found that more than 95 percent of test questions required students merely to recall facts. In response, Bloom developed a classification of intellectual behavior important in learning. These six levels start with recall of facts and move up through increasingly complex and abstract levels, to evaluation. Here they are, with examples of classroom test questions:

  • Knowledge, or recall of facts. (Who is the main character in the story?)
  • Comprehension. (Write a paragraph using five new words from the story.)
  • Application, or using knowledge in a new situation. (Describe a place you've visited that's like the setting in the story.)
  • Analysis, or breaking information into parts to explore understandings and relationships. (What parts of the story could not have actually happened?)
  • Synthesis, or putting ideas together in a unique way. (What if you added another character? Write a new ending from the new character's point of view.)
  • Evaluation, or judging materials or ideas on the basis of certain criteria. (Would you rather live where, or when, the story takes place or where you actually live? Why?)


Try It! Listen Up!
To keep students from losing interest during discussions or lectures, 10th-grade social studies teacher Michael Branch of Mineralwells, W.Va., has developed a listening-point contest. While lecturing, he will suddenly stop and throw out a quick question (to see who's paying attention), giving the first two or three students who raise their hands a chance to answer. Students who answer correctly earn a "listening point," and the discussion or lecture proceeds. At the end of class, the student with the most points gets and incentive of some kind. If Branch has a big incentive, like a gift card or other donated item, he keeps the contest going through the entire unit. "I also have a ‘re-listening quiz' later to see if the students can apply what they have learned," he says.